Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, September 30th, 2016

Avoidance is paying forward that which I would be much wiser to pay off.

Craig D. Lounsbrough

E North
None ♠ 7 5
 9 6 2
 K 7 5 3
♣ 7 6 4 2
West East
♠ 10 3 2
 8 7 4 3
 J 10 8 4
♣ J 9
♠ Q J 9 8 6
 A Q 9 6
♣ A 10 3
♠ A K 4
 A K Q J 10
♣ K Q 8 5
South West North East
      1 ♠
Dbl. Pass 2 Pass
3 Pass 4 All pass


Against four hearts West leads a low spade to East’s jack. As South, what is your plan to make 10 tricks?

In order to make four hearts, you need two club tricks. So, unless East has a singleton club ace, you will need clubs to be 3-2. Best is to win the spade king, cash the spade ace and ruff a spade low. Next you should lead a club from dummy. When the club ace fails to appear from East, your club king will win the trick.

Be careful! There is a winning defense if you continue with a low club next. West will win the trick with the jack and switch to the diamond jack. You must ruff the second round of diamonds and play a club, but East will win and force you again with the diamond ace. You must ruff again, and now West will eventually score a trump trick to set the contract.

The way around this disagreeable outcome is to continue with the club queen instead of a low club at trick five. East will win the club ace and does best to cash the diamond ace, but will probably exit with a spade, hoping that he can promote a trump trick in West’s hand. Instead, you will throw a diamond from hand and ruff with dummy’s trump nine. You will then draw trump and give up a club.

If East instead plays back a trump rather than the fourth spade, you draw trump and give up a club, having retained control.

Where you are playing two over one game forcing, you have enough for a cuebid of four clubs. You have great controls, and plan to bid four hearts if partner cooperates with four diamonds. If you play this sequence is only invitational to game, then you have more than enough to bid four spades, but not enough to cuebid for slam.


♠ Q J 9 8 6
 A Q 9 6
♣ A 10 3
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 2 ♣ Pass
2 Pass 3 ♠ Pass

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


ClarksburgOctober 14th, 2016 at 9:55 am

In BWTA, if NS are playing 2/1 GF, what does Responder’s jump to 3S say that is worth a whole level of bidding room?

Jane AOctober 14th, 2016 at 1:06 pm

It will depend on what other systems are being played. In this case, I think north is looking for slam since he did not use a Jacoby two NT bid to show at least game going values. I don’t play Jacoby often myself but have another system to show the same type of hand as Jacoby. Perhaps Bobby would clarify and give an example of what north’s hand could be? Playing 2/1 I also wonder why the jump is necessary.

bobbywolffOctober 14th, 2016 at 1:26 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

You ask a direct question, so without hesitation are entitled to a direct answer.

Responder’s jump to 3 spades, the bidding round before being GF, thus showing major interest in a spade slam. with usually only three trumps, but if so, good ones (A10x as a likely absolute minimum).

An easy 4 club bid next by opener may pave the way for a superior slam contract in clubs, if partner cooperates with long strong clubs, plus the ace of hearts, allowing heart ruff(s) in the short trump hand and even the right diamond holding to allow spade discards and chalk up a well bid club grand slam.

s. A10x, h. Axx, d. K c. KQJxxx would be a perfecto. Not laydown but, no doubt, the right contract.

And just to keep you and other bridge lovers with talent enthusiastic, when taking the high-level part of our game slowly but surely, your conclusion will reflect that nothing about the game (especially, critical bidding judgment) is annoyingly difficult, but rather the consistency of thought, thus performance, hand after hand, is the necessary ingredient to set a World standard, as long as one has a partner, cut from, at least almost, the same mold.

For those enthralled with the anomalies of our remarkable game, think of the difference making with the opener having Kxxxx in spades instead of QJ98x. much better for clubs, but likely worse for spades.

Likely a playground for Dame Fortune as, no doubt, she patrols bridge, especially the high-level variety, hopefully with the intention of awarding justice to the best partnerships.

bobbywolffOctober 14th, 2016 at 1:55 pm

Hi Jane A,

Another crossed in the mail episode.

However this one figures not to be as disastrous as one that had one romantic partner declaring his or her love to another who had just composed and sent a “Dear John” one.

Yes, some kind of GF trump raise while holding both 4+ trumps for partner and a good enough hand, is almost always the bid of choice, when what could be called a primary raise is immediately given. It both is on tract and basically simplifies what follows for both partners.

However the post from Clarksburg may clarify the understanding of why that immediate trump raise with only 3 of partner’s major suit
may limit the final contract to less than hoped for, if and when, a better contract becomes available.

Since simplicity is often an asset, especially with less experienced players participating, I do not want to discourage it, but instead, not to even delve into it, might be considered a bit irresponsible to those who have loftier goals.

Thanks for your continued pertinent ideas and
always your cheerful presentation.

Mircea1October 14th, 2016 at 7:32 pm

Hi Bobby,

What happens if West decides not to show respect for his partner’s bid suit and instead starts with DJ. Regardless of who wins the first trick, the defense continues with diamonds forcing declarer. Is there a way for South to still make the contract?

bobbywolffOctober 15th, 2016 at 1:08 am

Hi Mircea1,

No, not one visible to me, since 2 clubs tricks need to be lost plus of course, 1 diamond trick and the tap on declarer will produce the setting trick for the defense by scoring the long defensive trump in the West hand.

ClarksburgOctober 16th, 2016 at 2:45 pm

Good Sunday morning Mr Wolff
Back to the discussion around the BWTA hand. I didn’t fully grasp the underlying reason why Responder’s jump to 3S has more merit than a go-slow 2/1 auction, where Responder would reveal the “major interest in slam” message only later in the auction.
With my current Intermediate-level methods / understandings the auction could go:
1S 2C 2D 2S 3C (natural, showing 5 1 4 3 pattern) 3NT (“serious” slam interest; please show your lowest control) 4C …and on from there…
Referring to the Responder hand you posited as possibly good for 7C:
Opener (BWTA hand): QJ986 5 AQ96 A103
Responder: A10x Axx K KQJxxx

Seems that in my auction, after Opener’s 4C response to Responder’s “serious 3NT” then Responder already knows Opener has three Clubs to the Ace and a singleton heart.

I would really like to fully grasp and understand the underlying reasons and bridge logic favouring Responder’s jump to 3S versus “go-slow” approach.

Many thanks in advance for your further help on this.

bobbywolffOctober 16th, 2016 at 4:54 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

First of all, when you speak of either “serious” or not “serious” 3NT as a slam try, you have ascended to perhaps. 0001% of the currently perhaps 8 million bridge players in the USA down from more than 40 million players 65 years ago.

While bridge has numerically gained in numbers around the world in most of Europe and much of China, it has lost favor in America.

Having said the above will enable me to better explain a simple version of what you are doing.

With the advent of a “two over one” system together with forcing NT, and in order to not get into specialized understandings involving when 3NT is never NT but rather only attempting to suggest simple slam interest, different meanings now need to be attached to former fairly common bids.

The major and perhaps only reason for jumping to 3 spades is to simply inform partner that good spade support, at least three and if only, not 3 small (or close) and in addition taking the place of 3NT, but doing it a little earlier in the bidding to suggest, at that moment, that a slam is very possible, with the riight fit.

My advice is usually given with the idea that the person I’m addressing is a desired serious player who while playing with a not-so regular partner, what that unnecessary jump should mean.

It is only to inform partner of what I said above, so that both of us will be on the same wave length about what suit, but more about the possibility of slam. If only 2 spades is bid, which on some hands, possibly s. KJ, h. xxx d. Jxx, c. AKJxx seems, at least to me, the bid of choice, but the lack of a 3rd spade, while not likely critical for game, becomes so for slam. If partner would then, over my 2 spades, continue to 2NT, this hand would be an automatic 3NT, no more, no less.

Also keeping in mind the 99% of the readers who continue the old Goren of 2 over 1 being 10+ points, but not GF.

I, as a columnist, need to always keep in mind the preferences of most of my readers, in order not to confuse them, and treat them gentle enough so that they will continue to progress at bridge to the point of loving to play it.

Enough for now, but I would be happy to answer any further specific questions you may have. And BTW serious or non-serious 3NT cannot possibly cover the more nebulous maybe serious, but if partner holds a different hand then not serious, conundrum.

ClarksburgOctober 16th, 2016 at 5:51 pm

Many thanks. By jove I think I’ve got it!!
I will now be adding that jump to show three GOOD trumps and slam interest.
With slam interest but lesser trumps I will continue to take the slow route, giving Partner another descriptive bid.
Over Opener’s 2NT rebid, my 3NT was always unambiguous “to play” (serious 3NT ON only when in Major suit fit at the three level).
And regarding the possible “maybe-serious 3NT” conundrum” you mention, I would only embark on that route based upon what I know, not what might be on a sunny day.
If there are any serious flaws in this approach, please point them out.

bobbywolffOctober 17th, 2016 at 12:18 am

Hi Clarksburg,

The problem involved with more attempted levels
of gradation, especially at bridge, sometimes develops between two players, where one views a half cup of water as half-full and the other half-empty.

Not at all uncommon so that if a qualified bridge doctor would prescribe, it would be to try bidding hundreds of slam type hands 26+ hcps in addition to various trump fits, sources of tricks, and if accepted not two immediate losers.

In that way, both partners should, in time, be able to calibrate his partner’s judgment, which in turn, usually will help both partners over some rough spots.

Knowing partner’s tendencies is sometimes more valuable than when in an aggressive contract, taking a successful finesse. Not always, but more than one will normally suspect.